Who’s Cheating America: The Overzealous Recyclers

We take care of the elderly in America! These are our beloved grandparents and great-grandparents. We want them to be healthy. We make sure they’re getting their medications. And they often need it! Thanks to miracles of modern science, different medications keep those brains sharp and those hearts beating.

If you’ve ever been to a nursing home, you know what the cupboards look like. Prescription bottle after prescription bottle, all sitting there, waiting to be used.

And what if prescriptions change or the resident passes away? What happens to those unused pills? They can’t just be thrown out, can they? Don’t they seep into the water supply? Of course they do. They need to be disposed of properly!

You can probably guess where I’m headed with this. The recycling never happened! Or it did and someone got stuck with the bill who wasn’t supposed to. Grieving relatives? Underresourced nursing homes?

Oh no. That would be a story in and of itself. But that’s not this story.

This story is so much worse

Fourteen employees of a Michigan pharmacy ripped off Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to the tune of $60 million by retrieving unused drugs from nursing homes and illegally reselling them, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.

Illegally reselling them? What the…?

In a superseding indictment released one day earlier, a federal grand jury described Kim Duron Mulder, one-time CEO of Kentwood Pharmacy, as a leader of a scheme that allegedly breached the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by collecting previously dispensed drugs and mixing them with unsold pills.

The storage processes that took place during retrieval caused the products to become degraded, and misbranding occurred when pills were mixed into new bottles with incorrect lot numbers, the indictment said, adding that a cover-up took place when internal dissent arose.

Okay – but they just put a few old pills into large bottles of new pills? One or two in each bottle? One bottle per shelf ? Please tell me that was the case.

The scheme became so pervasive that more than 90 percent of the stock bottles on Kentwood’s shelves at one point contained misbranded or adulterated drugs, according to the indictment.

Ninety percent? What was the scale here? Hundreds of dollars? Thousands? Tens of thousands?

From 2006 to 2010, Kentwood received $55 million from Medicare, $19 million from Medicaid and $4 million from Blue Cross, the grand jury said. Prosecutors are trying to claw back more than $60 million.

By 2010, Kentwood was serving roughly 800 nursing homes, which accumulated unneeded drugs when residents died, moved away or had their medications changed. When the retrieved pills were collected, they were stored in vehicles that experienced fluctuating temperatures, causing the medicines to degrade, the indictment said.

That’s a lot of pills. Time for a repeat question. Who’s running the place – this guy?

Martins: Have you ever seen any of your victims?

Harry Lime: You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don’t be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax – the only way you can save money nowadays.

These are not dots, Kentwood pharmacy! They’re grandparents! Make your money honestly! And stop cheating America!

Previous entries in our Who’s Cheating America? series:

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